Laura Siegemund and Mate Pavic had never heard of each other before the US Open, but their names are now linked together for life.
The unseeded duo shocked everyone by winning the US Open mixed doubles title Friday, but it was a pairing that almost never came to be. Neither player was sure if they would even make the high cut for the draw with their current rankings. In addition, Siegemund was dealing with an injury that had forced her to retire from a women's doubles match last week.
"I was hoping that someone would trust that I would get better. He was the only one that was very relaxed about the situation and also didn't have a partner yet. So he didn't have a lot of options," joked Siegemund. "But [women's] doubles, it was a day I couldn't move. Even after the singles, he thought, I think, that I was just going to retire and go home and get better. I remember the text. He was like, 'So, are we gonna play tomorrow?' I was like, 'Yeah, let's do it.'"
The win was even more impressive because they didn't drop a set throughout the tournament. It was by far their best result at a major, with neither Siegemund or Pavic having reached the quarterfinals at a major beforehand.
Siegemund's journey to the title is particularly noteworthy because she briefly stepped away from the game and returned to school. She almost exclusively played tournaments in her native Germany in 2011 and 2012 for the sole purpose of making enough money to pay for textbooks. But as she continued to keep winning lower-level tournaments, she gradually made a full-time return to pro tennis.
2016 has been a breakthrough year on all fronts for her. In addition to earning a bachelor's degree in psychology, she won her first WTA title last month in Bastad, currently sits at a career-high singles ranking of No. 27 and now has a Grand Slam title to her name.
"It always helped my game a lot if I had not only tennis on my mind. I need some balance," said Siegemund. "If it's not studying or coaching what I did before, I kind of make hobbies. I just take time for other things, which is really important for me. But this first season back as a full-time pro has been a good season."
Although there are no ranking points on offer for mixed doubles, both Siegemund and Pavic believe the confidence gained from winning a Grand Slam will help them immensely moving into the fall season.
"Even if it's mixed doubles, it's still an amazing feeling," said Pavic. "I hope to just continue like that, get my ranking a little bit better and make Top 30 by the end of the year."